By Aishwarya Venkat, student at Virginia Tech and AIDemocracy Fellow.
2012 is a monumental year for many reasons. In the US, it is an election year, which brings with it an outpouring of political and moral opinions. To the rest of the world, which is recovering from groundbreaking events like Arab Spring and the war in Afghanistan, 2012 seems to mark a return to normalcy, at least so far.
In this constant state of flux, the US faces several challenges in determining its role on the global stage. But I sincerely hope 2012, above all others, will be a year of change and refocusing.
The world’s population hit 7 billion a few months ago, and supporting all these people is a global challenge. Thanks to modern medicine and technology, we have been able to extend life spans to almost twice the age of the early 20th century. But this advancement is not uniform: there are still areas in the world that suffer greatly due to factors like HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases. In fact, the UN estimates that life expectancy in Botswana would be 70.1 years instead of the current 31.6 years, if the scourge of HIV/AIDS had not struck the country. Numbers like this across the continent indicate that diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria continue to affect millions of lives, and it is our responsibility to make this issue a top priority on the international agenda.
It will be a challenge, especially for the US, where the Republican Presidential candidates are talking about cutting a significant part of the foreign aid budget. Nevertheless, I hope that we will consider our role in the bigger context of global development, and prioritize universal human health over national concerns in the long run.